I saw the new Son of God movie yesterday with a friend. As with any biblically-based movie, I knew there would be controversial elements, but I went with an open attitude, asking the Lord to speak to me. And I was pleasantly surprised by three aspects of this new Hollywood portrayal of Jesus.
1. From the moment Jesus climbs into Peter’s fishing boat to his punishment and death at the end, we are reminded of the truth that Jesus was an ordinary man. Peter’s reactions to and dialogue with Jesus are exactly what I would have imagined them to be. (“Who the heck are you and why are you getting into my boat?!”) I expected a Hollywood-style glorification of the supernatural, mystical aspects of Christ, but the producers (Roma Downey and Mark Burnett) did just the opposite. There was nothing “spooky Christian” or “new age” about this Jesus. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention, you might miss the healing of the paralytic or the multiplication of loaves, because Jesus was NOT drawing attention to himself. He was simply loving people and meeting needs in a humane way, with supernatural results. Isn’t that what real Christianity looks like today? I have seen people healed and miracles happen, and they are rarely accompanied by great fanfare from heaven or earth-shattering effects. They are often quiet and unnoticed at first, without sensationalism. I appreciated this approach in the movie.
2. Son of God spent a great deal of time outlining the political and religious conflicts of the first century world. The grandeur of the temple at Jerusalem was evident; the contrast between the religious Sanhedrin and ordinary Jews, and the tension between Pilate and the temple priests was well described. Because of this, Christ’s claim that He would destroy the temple stood out for what it really was: a direct challenge by a “revolutionary” against what most believed to be sacred, God-ordained structures and practices. I understood more clearly the threat that the religious leaders would have felt and their subsequent frustration over what to do with a man they couldn’t legitimately kill under their own law. Jesus’ trial was also an eye-opener for a westerner who hadn’t quite envisioned what a small trial by religious leaders might look like: not a courtroom drama, but rather a “guilty” judgment unjustly rendered by a few jealous priests, with no defense.
3. The most powerful take-away for me, however, was near the end. In light of the “ordinariness” Jesus (Diogo Morgado) conveys throughout the story, I wondered how the disciples could go out later with such boldness to preach and even suffer martyrdom for Him. After all, even at the end they still were not clear about the kind of kingdom Christ represented, nor were some fully convinced of who He was. The resurrection, of course, clinched it for most, but the movie takes the time to show us that for at least two men, the resurrection was not enough to propel them into ministry.
Jesus returns to Thomas to show him the piercings in His hands, settling Thomas’ doubts once and for all. And He returns, as we know, to Peter, to restore and forgive him after Peter’s betrayals. As I watched these last two scenes, I was touched again by the simple love Christ showed to His friends in giving them all they needed to continue on. As for sensationalism, as the movie closed, the Holy Spirit surprised me by speaking quietly to me, right there in the dark theatre. “I will always give you what you need,” He said. “I will always give you what you need.” :-)
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.